By now, we should all know the story of Tony Wilson’s ultimately doomed Factory Records imprint; the rags-to-riches-to-rags story of the design-conscious Manchester imprint, excesses and all, has been written many times over. Strut’s initial FAC. DANCE compilation, curated with love by walking dance music encyclopedia Bill Brewster and released last year, also documented the label’s attempts to court the dancefloor. As that collection proved, the emerging UK club culture of the 1980s was of vital importance to Factory. In many ways, it was written into the label’s DNA. From its early post-punk years to the later dominance of dance-pop kings New Order and the Happy Mondays, the fortunes of Factory Records were intertwined with that of its partner club, the Hacienda. That both were ultimately glorious failures almost makes the Factory story more alluring.
The first FAC DANCE collection told this story well, focusing not only the hits, but also the underground records that became anthems at the Hacienda and beyond. For every “Love Tempo”, “Dirty Disco”, “Love On A Hilltop” or “Reach For Love”, there was something a little odd, usually from either the Durutti Column or Biting Tongues. It was hardly exhaustive, but then condensing a decade of influential and inspired releases onto two discs is nigh on impossible. It’s for this reason – and, we assume, the commercial success of that first volume – that Strut have decided to put together a second volume of Factory dance classics and rarities, FAC DANCE 02.
This time, the script is altogether different. With many of the more familiar post-punk and straight-up Factory dance releases previously featured in the first collection, FAC Dance 02 needed to dig deeper. To do that, Strut have recruited former Factory Benelux boss James Nice, a man who knows more about the ins and outs of the Factory back catalogue than most. Over the last few years, his LTM label has lovingly reissued a number of classic, long-forgotten Factory albums from the likes of Quando Quango and A Certain Ratio. Nice brings a different perspective to the role of curator, and his selection is arguably much deeper – though no less interesting or well thought out – than Brewster’s. For starters, there’s a starring role for A Certain Ratio, a key Factory band whose unique brand of post-punk industrial funk wasn’t fully represented in the first Brewster curated retrospective. Nice digs deep into the Factory archives of A Certain Ratio, selecting the brilliant “Lucinda” and the raw punk-funk of “The Fox”; both oft-overlooked classics. He also finds space for “Sommadub”, an extended ACR dub workout that was credited to “Sir Horatio” and only released as a limited dubplate.
There’s equal space found for obscure productions from familiar Factory bands, too; the intense voodoo funk of sax-laden wig-out “Meat Mask Separatist” from Biting Tongues, for example, or the clattering New York electrofunk mess of 52nd Street’s freestyle jam “Can’t Afford (Unorganised Mix)”. While the inclusion of two ESG tracks is understandable, given both of them (“Moody” and “You’re No Good”) were produced by Factory in-house mixer Martin Hannett, the fact they are arguably the New York band’s most recognisable tracks lends them an air of incongruity amid a selection aimed at looking beneath the surface. Maybe they are included to highlight the strengths of FAC DANCE 02, a compilation that’s at its most beguiling when championing long forgotten records, or those whose influence has long been forgotten. A great example of this is Fadel’s strange Arabic dance cut “N’Sel Fik”. Although a big seller (by Factory standards) at the time, it has largely been forgotten. In fact, it’s now best known for being sampled by Lennie D’Ice for his hardcore rave classic “We Are I.E”. Perhaps less influential but no less impressive to 21st century ears are tracks such as the apocalyptic punk-funk insanity of The Royal Family and the Poor’s anarchic “Vanigem Mix” or the vaguely Balearic dream-pop of Surprize and the synth-laden interplanetary strangeness of Ad Infinitum’s “Telstar”. The presence of some slight duffers such as Minny Pops’ “Blue Roses” and Thick Pigeon’s best skipped “Babcock + Wilcox” adds to the perception of this compilation being a warts and all presentation of Factory’s dancefloor output.
FAC Dance 02 might be lacking in stone cold hits or accessible hooks but those seeking these should already have invested in the label’s inaugural retrospective or perhaps stick to “Blue Monday”. It does however contain some thrilling and genuinely historic music, presented in consummate fashion by an expert on the subject. For that reason alone, it should be essential listening.
1. Cabaret Voltaire – Yashar (John Robie Mix)
2. Fadela – N’sel Fik
3. A Certain Ratio – The Fox
4. Shark Vegas – You Hurt Me
5. Quando Quango – Go Exciting (12” Mix)
6. Sir Horatio – Sommadub
7. X-O-Dus – Society
8. Minny Pops – Blue Roses
9. Thick Pigeon – Babcock + Wilcox
10. Section 25 – Sakura
11. ESG – You’re No Good
12. Durutti Column – Self Portrait
1. 52nd Street – Can’t Afford (Unorganised Mix) 10.21
2. Section 25 – Knew Noise 4.49
3. Nyam Nyam – Fate 8.08
4. Swamp Children – Softly Saying Goodbye 4.10
5. A Certain Ratio – Lucinda 3.57
6. Surprize – In Movimento 5.41
7. ESG – Moody 2.43
8. The Wake – Host 7.57
9. Royal Family And The Poor – Vaneigem Mix 6.23
10. Biting Tongues – Meat Mask Separatist 4.59
11. Anna Domino – Take That 4.12
12. Ad Infinitum – Telstar 3.12
Kalima – Land Of Dreams
Swamp Children – Samba Zippy Pt. 2